Monday, 21 January 2019


Never a cross word in all those years?
That isn’t true.
Still, we could read each other’s clues.
You knew the difference between down and cross
and when the letters in your head got mixed
I’d sometimes help you make coherent words.

Seeing you sat in cryptic quietness,
pen twitching in your hand,
I traced your posture with my brush
while you filled in the blanks
to hold back the black spaces.

The pen is idle now, those hard won words
locked up inside it.
Can I resolve the silent cipher
Of an empty chair?

I haven’t got a clue.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

The juggler

The juggler threw his life into the air.
He watched it hang there, splendid in the hopeful sky.
He watched it fly
and fall
and fly again.

Let go the shining apples of the past
to seize this fleeting day
and then to grasp
the fast approaching future.

His hands are deft,
they pluck each swiftly moving fruit out of the air
then launch it back
with careless ease.

But in his face the lines
of concentration trace
the story of the his learning years.
His eyes reflect each failing, falling fruit,
scooped up from the bruising earth

to fly
and fall
and fly again.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The dog she was.

She’s not the dog she was ten years ago,
When she would run for country miles.
Stiles and fences flew beneath
her feathered feet.
No stick unturned, no ball unfound,
no inch of ground uncovered.

Lately she liked to sleep on the settee,
Just to be close enough
to rest her head on Catherine’s lap,
take an after dinner nap, twitching
in dreams of chasing crows
across the green fields of her youth.

Now her lead hangs empty on the lobby stand.
No need to call for tats or supper,
or to shout out ‘Bedtime’ when the sky grows dark
and let her out to bark at stars.
Her bed has lost her body’s warmth.
She sleeps, now, only in our memories.
The stone in the soup

A beggarman came and he sat alone 
By the banks of the village stream 
And he took from his bundle a fine white stone 
Which he boiled in the pot and got good and hot 
'til it raised up a fine white steam.

The farmer scowled on his way into town 
At the raggedy man in his weeds. 
But the beggarman, smiling, said "come and sit down, 
I have sun and fresh air, and there's soup to spare, 
Though I feel there is something it needs".

They tested the soup and agreed it was fine, 
Though, the farmer thought, just a bit thin. 
"I have cabbages here in this old sack of mine, 
Which are better than rocks for thickening stocks. 
Let's chop one up and pop it in".

They sat back to chat as they let the soup boil 
They talked of the lives they had led. 
The farmer told stories of labour and toil, 
The beggar of skies far away, full of stars 
And the warm friendly earth for a bed.

The butcher came by to open his shop
And regarded the curious pair
Who waved and entreated him ‘Gentleman, stop,
And give us your view on our stone cabbage stew,
for its flavour is savoury and rare’.

Sipping the broth from an old wooden spoon
The butcher was duly impressed
But opined ‘Without wishing at all to impugn,
A couple of pieces of veal, nicely dressed,
Are what’s needed to flavour this soup at its best,
Stay there, I’ll be back with them soon.

As the morning rolled on others joined in the group,
Spice merchants, vintners and such,
And each added something to sweeten the soup
And, better than that, each one joined in the chat
for they all loved the company so much.

Noon came and went and the brew grew more rich
As ingredients went into the mix,
And the company too, well it just grew and grew
on that riverside walk, for the laugher and talk
and the smell of soup had them bewitched.

The beggarman tasted the savoury blend
And announced that the meal was complete
whereon each happy soul helped themselves to a bowl
And agreed, once replete
That there’s not much to beat
A soup made from stone with some friends

Tuesday, 19 August 2014



My Dad came back again last night
as if he’d never been away.
We sat out on the deck, drank whiskey,
cut with ice from the hard edged moon.
We talked about Marmite and Oscar Wilde, 
the state of the nation and how to recognise good steak.

Looking at him in that light
I saw the man I knew for just a while,
before his memories
outweighed his future.
His eyes claimed back their laughter,
our hands were steady as we raised a glass.

Waning with the moon
towards the horizon
he left me to myself,
to chink his empty glass,
say ‘Cheers’
and seek the warmth indoors.

Remember pitching our old ‘A’ frame tent?
Set just one line wrong, end up wet all night.
The pegs were mis-matched, half the poles were bent.
It took us hours to get the canvas tight.

You’d let me light the lamp, you’d start a fire,
burn sausages and give me sips of beer,
then tell me ghostly tales ‘til we grew tired.
“I’m frightened Dad.” “Don’t worry Son, I’m here.”

They put you in a tent with plastic sides
to hold in oxygen, so you could breathe.
I came and sat with you those last few nights,
knowing the time was close for you to leave.
You spoke, I leaned inside the tent to hear;
“I’m frightened Son.” “Don’t worry Dad, I’m here.”

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Morning Tea

It's just a tea bag in a mug
each morning,
with a dash of milk and half a sugar.
I draw the spoon around the rim
so chiming china stirs your sleeping head.
'Is that for me?'
You've said it every day
for fifteen years.
It always is.